With Charles Leclerc already carrying a 10-place grid drop at the second round of F1 2023, Martin Brundle cannot quite believe what he is seeing at Ferrari.
The Scuderia came into the new Formula 1 season very much intent on mounting a fresh, and this time more successful challenge against Red Bull in pursuit of their first title success since 2008.
If they are to ultimately achieve this goal in 2023 though, then they do have a lot of ground to make up it would seem.
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Red Bull were utterly dominant at the Bahrain season-opener, where Leclerc had already settled for a P3 finish to join Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez on the podium, that was until the Control Electronics in his Ferrari power unit called it quits.
That was the second CE which Ferrari had fitted pre-race, and with the first not in working order either, Ferrari were forced to give Leclerc a third Control Electronics of the season for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
And with only two allowed for the season, that means Leclerc has already incurred the standard 10-place grid drop, a huge blow for Ferrari who are expecting to be much closer to the pace of Red Bull in Jeddah.
Both Leclerc and Carlos Sainz have taken new Internal Combustion Engines for the Saudi Arabian GP, while Leclerc also has a new MGU-H, all of these components at least still within the season limits.
Nonetheless, this is the kind of “jaw drop” reliability wobble from Ferrari which Brundle says you can only roll your eyes at.
“The reliability – Leclerc taking a 10-place grid drop here, it’s jaw drop and eyes roll time,” said the Sky Sports F1 pundit during their Friday coverage in Jeddah.
“Already? It seems incredible that they’ve burned through two control units.
“There are obviously some issues there to be sorted out and reliability is everything.
“Teams, you’d imagine, have got that sort of thing aced by now, so that’s a shocker.”
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However, Brundle does believe that Leclerc will at least be in a better position here to undo the damage compared to Bahrain, while Sainz it seems will be Ferrari’s main hope at the front against Red Bull.
“I think the Ferrari will look better here than in Bahrain,” Brundle predicted.
Ferrari’s performance on Friday was alarming to say the least though, Leclerc having ended FP2 in P9 with Sainz P10.
Leclerc has though stressed that Ferrari are still keeping pace in reserve ahead of qualifying.
“I don’t think we are that bad, honestly,” he told reporters in Jeddah. “The feeling is pretty good, but very difficult to read into the performance because everybody’s doing very different things with power, weight, etcetera – probably more different than other years.
“So it’s a bit more difficult to read the Friday free practice sessions. But the feeling was quite okay and the race pace seems to be better than Bahrain, so that’s positive.
“We have quite a bit in the locker – how much, let’s see. I am sure Red Bull also have something still hidden so we’ll see tomorrow. But I think it will be closer than what it is for now.”